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Fitness | How I Did It

Battle With Cancer Led to a Healthier Regimen

May 31, 1999|SUZANNE JACOBS

In September 1996, my husband and I were enjoying a beautiful weekend in Palm Springs when I discovered a lump in my right breast. Four days later, I was having cancer surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Talk about getting hit right between the eyes with the stark reality that life is not to be taken for granted.

During my treatment, my doctor introduced me to nutrition. Like a good patient, I took the 45 vitamins and herbs daily as requested by my oncologist. However, exercise was something I didn't really get into. I know exercise is a necessary evil, but during chemotherapy I was chronically fatigued. I just didn't feel like following a strict exercise schedule.

It took me more than a year before I started feeling I was getting my strength back. I still didn't have an exercise routine, and my vitamin intake had diminished greatly. Food--something I could not enjoy during my treatment, due to mouth sores, nausea and vomiting--was a new experience for me. I took advantage of the ability to enjoy a good meal. And, coupled with no exercising, you can guess what the end result was.

One day I got out of the shower and stood on the scale and looked in the mirror. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life: 138 pounds. It was then that I realized it was time to get my life back in order. I started watching what I was eating: I dieted by eating the right foods, limited my fat intake to 60 or fewer grams per day and increased the percentage of complex carbohydrates in my diet with vegetables and fruit.

My husband has always been into exercise. He used to ask me to go to the gym with him. There was one small problem, however: He got up between 3:30 and 4 a.m. to work out. There was no way, I thought at the time, that I would ever get up that early to exercise. Well, that all changed. The alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m., and I'm at the gym by 4. I work out five days a week and feel the healthiest I have ever felt. I have lost the weight I gained--plus some--and fit into a size 3.

I am not bragging. Sure, I'm proud of my accomplishment, but more than anything else, I want people to know that with a change of attitude and some effort, they can retake control of their lives and create an atmosphere around them of well-being and internal calm.

Vital Statistics

Name: Suzanne Jacobs

Age: 55

Occupation: Office manager

Old weight: 138 pounds

New weight: 113 pounds

Height: 5 feet, 2 inches

Time to get there: Four months

How Did You Do It?

Do you have a story about how you lost weight and kept the pounds off? Or a story about how you learned to mountain climb or in-line skate, trained for a half-marathon or discovered a unique way of keeping fit, dealing with a nagging ailment or persevering with a fitness regimen despite some obstacles?

If so, we'd like to hear from you. Tell us your story in a 500-word essay listing what worked in terms of diet, exercise and encouragement, as well as any emotional and physical changes.

For weight-loss stories, send us full-body color photos of yourself, before and after. For other types of stories, send a color photo of yourself doing the activity you're writing about.

Send essay and photos to How I Did It, Health, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Include daytime and evening phone numbers. Submissions cannot be returned. And, please, no phone calls.

In addition to publication, winners will receive a Los Angeles Times Health section gym bag.

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